Massive result, but I have some big concerns… Ratings + Review

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It doesn’t seem to matter when we go up to Blackburn, the heavens open regardless and the conditions conspire against us. Yesterday was no exception as the rain poured down in the middle of August. We fielded a very strong looking team going with the usual back 4, sticking Cesc Fabregas in the middle of the park and going with Robin in the middle relegating Chamakh to the bench.

Blackburn started off as we expected them to, firing long balls into the box. Almunia came and claimed the first one with confidence, you could almost hear the sigh of relief from the away crowd. This was going to be a long day for the beleaguered Spaniard, he needed to impress.

Song was back in his favoured position sporting a new blonde hair cut, he was helping the midfield tick along with his short passing and physical presence. Not long into the game, Diaby lashed a shot at the Blackburn goal after some penalty box ping pong. Shortly after that, Theo was adjudged to be offside after he stylishly chipped the keeper from 20 yards.

The game was surprisingly open considering who we were playing, it was real end to end stuff. Blackburn’s tactics were long balls powered into the box from set plays and throw ins, but they were really focusing in on hitting our flanks and whipping dangerous balls into the box.  Something they were having frightening success with… especially down the left.

Cesc had to clear a powerful header off our line and moments later Almunia had to scramble across his goal to tip a floated header wide. A super save, very worrying that the Northerners were able to beat us to many of these balls.

Our defending was nothing short of shambolic, we were positionally naive and there was clearly no leadership at the back.

Our first chance came when Song found some space in the middle of the park, he made a short pass to Arshavin who tapped through to RvP who laid off a superb pass into the feet of Theo… who absolutely buried it into the bottom corner. He hit it so hard he literally pierced the net! A great finish reminiscent of Mark Overmars.

Our advantage was short lived. A speculative long ball was played out wide, Kozzer just needed to shepherd Diouf outwide, instead, he was muscled out the way then he didn’t have the pace to recover… the Blackburn wide man powered into the box, picked out Diouf MKII and we were level again. A very poor piece of defending and a reminder that I was right when I told you weight and experience matter when you’re a top class defender.

Robin went off with an injury. We now know it not to be serious, but it’s still a shame that we know yet again, we’re probably not going to be able to rely on his services for anymore than 30 games this season. He’s a walking crockbomb and we’ve just got to get used to it. When you throw in the news that Nik B might be out for 2010, all of a sudden, we’ve got a striking crisis at the club! Lets hope Chamakh is made of the same stuff Vermaelen is!

I was confident we’d win the game in the second half but our lack of directness worried me in the second half. For all our possession, we really didn’t seem to work Paul Robinson. We fear the shot, which seems to be something that’s crept into our game over the past few years.

Our second came when Sagna worked hard to keep the ball in play, he flew into the box , picked out Cesc who smashed his ball into a crowd of players rebounding off Theo I think. Arshavin was there to pick up the pieces and he slotted it expertly into the bottom corner. We were winning now… could we hold onto the lead?

Well, our full backs weren’t helping us, Blackburn continued to get the ball in from out wide and sloppy mistakes were creaping in. Vermaelen played Kalinic in with a poor clearance and Sagna had to put his body on the line to block a Diouf shot. Dunn was also given a chance to level the score after more shoddy defending…

Theo managed to have a second goal disallowed for a handball, we weren’t getting luck of the draw going forward. Jack Wilshere nearly scored down the other end, it wasn’t to be, the ref blew up, it was a super win for the boys in red and white!


Almunia: Under the circumstances, I’d say he did very well. He was assertive and he was a safe pair of hands today. I’m going to grade him a point higher than I normally would because of the added pressure. However, I’m not changing my opinion. People forget he’s there to play like that week in week out and we know that over the past 3 years, he hasn’t been able to do that. It’s time for a change, time for some quality, time to accept he’ll never be any more than a 2nd string keeper for us. 8

Clichy: I wasn’t impressed with our left back today. He let Blackburn in far too many times for my liking and I thought he was sloppy. It’s not going to be long before Gibbs is taking his place in the team because his performances have been weak for the best part of a year now! He wasn’t in position for the first goal, but you’ve got to expect that when you want your left back to attack. 5

Sagna: A more solid performance than Clichy and a super assist. He seems to have worked hard on his crossing in the preseason because they’re certainly a lot better than they were last year! He’s a good defender, I’d just like to see a bit more discipline in game when the tactic of the opposition is to hit wide positions. 6.5

Vermaelen: I can’t work out what the problem is here… is it that 23 year old Vermaelen isn’t experienced enough to lead the line and his performances are going to be erratic next to less experienced players, or was it just a one off? He made some poor errors today and he didn’t lead particularly well. 6

Kozzer: I felt sorry for him. It’s not his fault is it? He’s not ready for first team in the Premiership. He isn’t up to speed and he isn’t used to playing in our defence. His weakness is clearly aerial balls and strikers are going to take advantage of his slight frame. If he’s getting into this much of a mess against Blackburn, how is he expected to deal with the Drogba test? He was at fault for the first goal and he was responsible for a host of other errors. Still, why should we expect him to come in and be a world beater? He’s come in from a weak club and he’s only had one year of semi decent football. He’s got something about him… but it’ll take time to adjust and bed in. Keep them crossed Squillaci can be the answer… Kozzer isn’t at the moment. 5

Song: Well, we certainly weren’t opened up down the middle today and there was no bully boy tactics going on from Blackburns side of things. I thought he passed well and he pushed danger down the channels. Hopefully he can maintain last seasons consistency and keep his fitness up to standard. 7

Diaby: Not good enough for me. I don’t care what his passing stats were, he doesn’t do enough for me. He makes wrong decision after wrong decision and he doesn’t really add too much to our game defensively or attacking wise. He’s the type of player who if he were to make the jump, could be immense… it just seems that jump is taking an age to happen. I’d prefer 6.5 in there… sorry, I mean Rosicky! 6

Cesc: Looked pretty moody yesterday. Who wouldn’t after a coach ride to Blackburn? He’s still a cut above anyone else in the Premiership for speed of thought and ability to find space. I thought he looked uncomfortable on the pitch, whether that was fitness or not being in Spain… hopefully he’ll perk up as the season progresses. 6.5

Robin Van Persie: Created the first goal for Theo with a super pass, bar that, I can’t remember him doing too much else bar fall to the ground in a typical crumpled heap. Thankfully it’s only ten days out and he’ll miss international duty. 6.5

Theo: The man is on a mission to become the player we all hoped he would. He had fire in his belly, he has Premiership swagger about his game and his finishing has transformed. He scored a great goal and he had two disallowed. I’m hoping he can score 15 goals this season, if he does, I reckon we could be in with a shout come the end of the season. 8.5

Arshavin: I thought he had a solid game today. For one so short, he sure packs some power. He’s creative and he has that selfish streak our team sometimes lacks. He finished well this afternoon and he worked hard down his wing.  A good showing. 7

Chamakh: I’m not sure why Wenger didn’t have our aerial supremo on from the start. He would have done a better job defending corners than Diaby and he’d give us a physical presence up top. He came on, linked in well and was unlucky with a few chances. 7

Rosicky: I’ll just give him a 9 and leave it at that. I know how you sensitive souls get about player  ratings. I appreciate he was probably on the bench this week because of last weeks score! 9

Jack Wilshere: Only on for 8 minutes. 6

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Blackburn today, we know what to expect, no complaints, just win…

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I found Wenger’s press snippet about the referees offering no protection to the goalkeepers and football becoming a rugby match a bit girly.

Sure, some teams are too rough. Sure, some teams try and hustle the goalkeeper, but that’s Premiership football for you. By making a statement like that, all Wenger has achieved is to encourage Blackburn to play rough and target one of our weak goalkeepers.

If teams play rough against you, my suggestion would be to play rough with them. If they set their stall out early with a crunching tackle, someone in our team should munch them back. That’s the thing with bullies, they don’t like it up em’!

I was encouraged to read that Kozzer likes the physical game and he’s happy to get stuck in. It seems that since we’ve struggled with the physicality of the game, all we do is buy players who can’t cope. Thomas Vermaelen came over last year and changed that pattern and I’m hoping we’ll have more of the attitude with Squillaci and Koscielny.

Blackburn were the architects of the ‘crowded box’ technique last season.

You don’t know what this tactic is?

Well, seeing as everyone else in the blogging world is trying to craft out a career in football tactics (Arsenal Column being the best if you like to read about the science of the game), I thought I’d join the bandwagon and show you via our intelligent Peroni Sponsored chalk board.

Crowded Box

As you can see, the Blackburn players pressurise one of our hapless keepers and force them into a mistake. The tactical solution to this problem is to buy a good goalkeeper. As we’re yet to do that, I would hope that we’ve been training hard to combat this problem. I would suggest that anything that comes into the box is firmly fisted away and any foul is greatly exaggerated by the keeper. Knowing our coaching staff, I can imagine we’ve employed the tactic known in the business as ‘ignore the problem, hope for the best.’

Realistically, we should batter Blackburn. They are a solid team but don’t really possess too much in the way of fire power. I’ve been impressed with Kalinic at times, but his finishing is poor. Pederson is one to watch out for with his set piece play and penchant for a distance effort. The good news is that David Dunn is unlikely to be playing. It’s mighty selfish that since we sorted his career threatening injury, he’s often the fulcrum of our problems!

Arsenal need to concentrate from the off, we need to start having shots and we need to be aware that this is unlikely to be as easy as Blackpool. As far as I know, there aren’t going to be too many changes to the squad. You would expect to see Cesc back in the team ahead of Jack Wilshere and I’d like to think Alex Song and Diaby will partner him in midfield.

I’m not really sure what the boss is going to do with his front three. Personally, I’d go with Robin in the middle with Chamakh and Theo taking up the wide spots… but that leaves Arshavin out of the side and an apparently in form Rosicky! Which would make sense from a physical point of view…

… and guess what? We might even get the chance to see Denilson today!

Help yourself to a cyber party popper!

I think we’re going to win 2-0. The key to winning these games generally is scoring the first goal because it kills lesser oppositions game plan. If we can do that and come away unbutchered, that will be the first ‘dirty northern ba*tard’ test out of the way!

Come on you Gooners!

P.S. On the goalkeeper front, I fully expect us to make a signing before the window closes. I’ve heard that Schwarzer isn’t playing at the moment because he’s told his boss he’s not in the right frame of mind. If we renege on £2million for a player who could potentially be the difference between winning something and mediocrity, it tells a story about our priorities. After all, if reports are to be believed, we had no problem lining our managers pocket with a further £2million… a story I have no problem believing.

Why we’re in for a 37 year old doesn’t make sense to me… I do wish we’d work on the policy of, if a superstar kid isn’t ready, buy someone who is at the top of their game now. Pepe Reina would have cost £20mill, he is the best in the league right now. If we’d signed him and Chesney had made the necessary jump in 3 years time, we’d be able to sell Reina at a profit when he’s 29 and we wouldn’t need to replace him.

By signing Schwarzer, we’re signing a keeper who solves a massive problem. Name me a keeper in the Premier league who wouldn’t solve that problem? I think people are getting carried away about him. He’s been in England since 1997 and hasn’t attracted a sniff of interest from a top club in all that time. His signing isn’t about quality, it’s about penny  pinching and giving a young keeper we have no idea about a bit of hope.

Everything Arsenal do these days is based on faith and doing things on the cheap.

We’re one of the most cash rich clubs in the world, and we’re still pleading poverty… we’re like the fat girl who got thin and still dates ugly men. What is the point of spending the last 5 years saving money, then not using that money to take advantage of other clubs genuine poverty? If you don’t believe we’ve got money, you wait until the annual report comes out in October… I’m sure you’ll be staggered.

Enjoy the game wherever you are today! An early kick off for once, what a result! I’ll be back tomorrow with a match report!


Good draw sees Eduardo return and why we should bring back the old style win bonus.

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I was watching Sky Sports last night, it was the trio of Merson, Smith and Parlour, 9,11 and 13 year Arsenal players, boy they were the days, I remember seeing all three make their debuts, I loved them all and not because they were English, but because they were Arsenal to the core, and still are.

They said there was never more than £50 between the top earner and the lowest paid, but they said they were paid a win bonus that doubled their salary, and that was why they fought so hard to win games, I know we have a win bonus, but perhaps the basic should be lower and the bonus higher, maybe that would incentivise them better, or maybe they wouldn’t sign in the first place.

Parlour also told a story of the squad arriving at Liverpool (I think) the team went to the changing rooms and the rest to the bar, after 4 pints Stewart Housten came into the bar and told Parlour to get his kit on as he was now playing, Andy Linighan said ‘can he at least finish his pint?’ Imagine that now? There weren’t many players playing for us that had Parlour’s passion, pissed or sober!

It seems that we have at last signed Squillaci, but I cannot understand why that business couldn’t have been taken care of in May?

It does seem that Schwarzer is not coming, so go and get Given, we know he wants to come, we want him, what we don’t want is Almunia and Fabianski not least because all these offers we made Fulham, it certainly shows what we think of them and if we don’t sign a keeper quickly, we’re screwed, in which case I would sooner take a chance on Chezzer. We’re also rumoured to be in for the Landreau.

Almunia was still flapping at crosses and had weak punching problems again against Blackpool, so he hasn’t improved a jot, Fabianski must live in a bubble because he thought he had a great game when he shipped 3 against Legia.

So Arsene get out there and get a keeper, Given would do very nicely, but if not, then anyone.

Have a great day Grovers, it’s Pedro for the weekend!

P.S. We still have 3 spares going for Blackburn away, e-mail in sharpish if you’d like those. We also have 4 seated together for the WBA game at home. E-mail in from the contacts —>>>>

Our good freind and long term Grover Rico has changed club and moved over to a new residence at Highbury House, check out her thoughts and drop a comment to say hi!